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Meet the new LUCIS director: Nathal Dessing

Meet Nathal Dessing, LUCIS director as of 1 November 2018. Dessing is a lecturer for the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCSoR) and is the director of education at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS).

What is your area of research?

My discipline is anthropology of religion, and I have worked particularly on the anthropology of Islam and Muslims in Europe. I’ve researched Muslim practices around birth, circumcision, marriage and death in the Netherlands, and examined forms of religiosity among Muslims. My fieldwork quickly showed me that the realities of lived Islam are often vastly more complex than the image painted in the public debate and by the media.  

How can the image be enhanced?

Muslim representation tends to focus mainly on religious aspects of life, which paints a rather limited picture. The LUCIS research program Islam in the West aims to contribute to a varied representation of Muslims by addressing everyday life as well. An important means to that end is ‘living science’. Academics like to counter incomplete representations with dry facts, but I think it is more fruitful to ‘live’ science. By finding new ways into an open dialogue between academia and everyday life, we can create a meaningful exchange between the two. In that respect, LUCIS is the perfect place for me to be.

Why is that?

LUCIS is an academic powerhouse, but it collaborates with institutions and organizations outside the academy, as well. Through its events, LUCIS shares a wealth of varied information with a broad audience. In doing so, it contributes not just to an adequate representation of Islam and Muslim, but to the debate about representation, too: what do we show? How? And what are the consequences? These are important questions to ask, and I am excited to join LUCIS in cultivating this debate over the next period of time.

Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to?

LUCIS celebrates its 10th birthday in 2019. Among the festivities will be our annual conference, the theme of which – yet to be announced –  will bring together academia and the finer things in life... But there is still plenty to look forward to in 2018: the Middle Eastern Culture Market is on 24 November, and there are three lectures left in our What’s New?! series.

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